Friday, May 15, 2015
Old man Jiujitsu - on getting a blackbelt in your 40s
Well, after nearly 30 years training in the martial arts, reaching brown belt (or equivalent) in two stand up arts, I finally received my black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu after 13 years in the sport. As I said to a class last night - my skills in wall walking, levitation and walking on water have not improved. Despite the fact that I now have the coveted faixa preta, as I believe Royce Gracie said, your belt covers an inch of your ass, you have to cover the rest. So what does it feel like to be a black belt in BJJ? Well what is it meant to feel like? And at 45? Is age an excuse or a limitation to be recognised?
As I've pushed toward black belt, it's been a real struggle when I look at younger, fitter, stronger guys. plenty of people are more talented and technical than I. Plenty of people should be black belts ahead of me. But some realisations have helped the journey.
Firstly, age is a factor. Rener Gracie talks about Boyd belts, the fact that age and size can function as belt levels, especially for the over 40s. A strong, young blue belt should be keeping me on my toes (and many do).
Secondly, there are older, domestic competitor black belts, and young black belts who compete internationally. Staying on lower belts younger to win the worlds is a worthy task, and I know one guy I'm hoping can finally make this dream come true.
Thirdly, one can be technical but lack cardio and speed to be able to execute, and rolling different ways at times to keep the technique sharp is ok.
Fourthly, age is not an excuse for being lazy. A lot of the cardio battle is mental. I did my hour long grading fairly well, but can pressure myself and gas in a few minutes. BJJ has taught me to be mentally tough, and I'm most disappointed in myself when I break mentally, not physically.
Fifthly, it's about the journey. This journey begins again at every belt level. It's kept enjoyable by exploring, learning and innovating. It's also refreshed by teaching, sharing, and by the awesome people you meet along the way. Too many to name, but my coaches, fellow senior ranks, students, people from clubs far and wide. I've been blessed in that way. Life is too full of amazing people in my team (the club RenegadeMMA as part of Australian Elite Team) to worry about doubters, haters and knockers.
Lastly, being an old man black belt is encouragement to other older men and women who get into the sport. I was able to encourage a 41 year old white belt to keep going last night. Worth its weight in gold.
So the journey goes on, the belt is heavier, the responsibilities larger, the people continue to be awesome. This is what it feels like for me to be a black belt. What you feel or will feel, will be different but no less awesome.